Edinburgh to give freedom of city to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko

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Edinburgh is set to give Ukraine’s president and Kyiv’s mayor the Freedom of the City in a demonstration of the Capital’s support for the country amid ongoing Russian attacks.

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Next week’s full council meeting will be asked to grant the most prestigious honour the city can give to President Volodymyr Zelensky and Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the civic leader of the Ukrainian capital and Edinburgh’s twin city.

The Freedom of the City – “bestowed upon those who are held in the highest esteem” – is a tradition that dates back over 560 years to 1459, with the Queen and Sir Chris Hoy the only living individuals to hold the freemanship.

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The council will also be asked to condemn Russia’s “horrific and illegal attacks on the Independence of Ukraine, their people, and their homes” and agree up to £100,000 of council funding towards coordinating local humanitarian efforts to help Ukraine, including the transport of supplies to Poland and elsewhere.

And it is proposed to end the council’s relationship with the Russian Consulate and ban all Russian Government-supported arts and cultural events and performances in council-owned venues and encourage other venues in the city to do the same.

Other steps would see letters sent to the Home Office, UK Foreign Office and MOD to seek clarity and support for victims of the war arriving in Edinburgh, particularly children, and ask for help with temporary accommodation.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “We all stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people in fighting this oppressive Russian regime and we will do everything we possibly can to support them.

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President Volodymyr Zelensky  Photo:Getty ImagesPresident Volodymyr Zelensky  Photo:Getty Images
President Volodymyr Zelensky Photo:Getty Images

“We’re bringing forward motions to ask councillors to stand with us in condemning Putin’s tyranny, and intend to offer the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh to the President of Ukraine and Mayor of Kyiv. By remaining in Kyiv, they are fighting side-by-side with their citizens against the Russian invasion, in a true defence of their nation. This is not just in recognition of their own leadership and bravery, but the bravery of all Ukrainians battling for their nation.

“With members’ agreement, we will write to the Home Office encouraging unrestricted refugee visas and local working to source host families to house refugees, with a focus on those with cultural and language understanding to best support unaccompanied children.

“The experiences of those fleeing their homes and their country is heart-breaking and we are looking at how we can help those who seek refuge, but we also need the Home Office to outline a plan.”

Depute leader Cammy Day said: “Edinburgh has a strong Scottish-Ukrainian population and many of us have heard stories from local friends and family members about the atrocities people in Kyiv and across Ukraine are facing. We pride ourselves on the warm welcome we offer to those in desperate need of our help and I hope we can drive forward support for refugees.

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“The outpouring of grief and support from Edinburgh people has been incredible and we won’t stop flying the Ukrainian flag until the war is brought to an end.

The Tories want to add to the motions a recognition of Russians who have bravely opposed the war and making clear Edinburgh is “not an enemy of the Russian people, just this war” .

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